The sheer abundance of portable speakers on the market today seems to stretch through the industry like so many stars across a black night sky. In an attempt to add some eye-catching sparkle, manufacturers have auditioned a multitude of features and designs. But BenQ, known primarily for its displays and projectors, has unveiled a dashing new speaker called the TreVolo that’s caught our eye with a first-of-its-kind feature for the genre: electrostatic drivers.
Electrostatic driver technology is nothing new. The design, which creates sound by exerting force on a thin membrane suspended in an electrostatic field, was pioneered back in the ‘50s. Known for their crystalline transparency, and lightning-fast response due to a diaphragm that’s a fraction of the size of standard dynamic drivers, electrostatic speakers are primarily used in high-end systems designed with audiophiles in mind.
BenQ’s gorgeous new speaker looks like something pulled from J.J. Abrams’ gleaming new Starship Enterprise. The sleek metallic cube can rest in place, or expand its gull-wing speakers to create a more expansive sound stage — an impressive form factor. While BenQ is mum on exact specs for its new creation, the TreVolo offers easy-access controls along the topside, a claimed 12 hours of battery playback per charge, and a promise of “unparalleled highs and accurate bass.”
However, that claim of “accurate bass” points to an issue that has us a bit apprehensive about the TreVolo’s performance. Apart from their delicacy and difficulty to engineer, there’s a reason electrostatic speakers are employed sparingly and haven’t gained mainstream prominence in the industry: they’re notoriously poor at reproducing low frequencies. Add to that the fact that BenQ isn’t exactly a goliath in the audio field, and there’s reason for concern when it comes to bass.
Still, we don’t normally expect, or encounter, a huge bass response from most portable speakers we evaluate. And apart from being drawn to its engaging aesthetic, we’re extremely curious to find out how this unique little speaker handles our music catalog, especially in the upper registers.
BenQ hasn’t announced an exact release date for the TreVolo yet, but it is slated for release in November this year, ahead of the holiday season. The speaker will be available in black or white, at an expected MSRP of $300. You can bet we’ll be getting our hands on an TreVolo as soon as possible, so stay tuned for our impressions when the speaker makes its primetime debut.
Updated 3/9/2015: This post was updated due to a change in the name of the speaker from eVolo to TreVolo by BenQ.